A living legend with energy to spare
Early in the morning, Krugman appears in the corridor of the CUNY Graduate Center. His gait is firm and energetic, his expression focused - without a trace of frequent traveler’s fatigue. In his soft voice, shyly but directly, Krugman briefly runs us through his schedule: he’s just arrived from an advisory overseas trip and is preparing for a conference on inequality the next day.
A critical voice that reaches millions
In his mildly sarcastic New York tone, Krugman responds: "Everybody who does international economics, and tries to do both analysis and policies has to be not-quite-human in some dimension." The economist walks us down memory lane, to his graduate school days - revealing that his adviser and mentor, economist Rudi Dornbusch, could make do with just three to four hours sleep a night. Krugman admits he needs his shuteye, but he has his own strategy for keeping up: "I’m a very, very fast, organized writer."
Krugman gained huge popularity among millions of keen readers from his critical New York Times column, which won him the moniker "The voice of the left". In his minimalist writing style, Krugman explains complex economic concepts, making them resonate with a wide array of readers who don’t necessarily have economics degrees. His words, gracing "the best journalistic real estate in the world", reach a massive international readership.
Dealing with a real-world issue: inequality
Krugman started working on the problem of inequality as a public intellectual, rather than approaching it from a purely academic position. "There are things that we know we can do and there are things that we think we can do. And we should be doing all of them. Redistribution, taxes and transfers, guarantee of basic income in some form for the less fortunate, paid for by taxes on the most fortunate. We can do that. But we know that there’s a wide range of how much is done, and there’s no evidence that countries that do more pay any real price."
While there’s no ready-made cure for all the world’s problems, Krugman believes many of the present issues facing the globe can be addressed with relevant economic tools and solutions. What’s lacking, however, is the political will to solve them. This is precisely how Krugman sees the biggest challenge: climate change. "That’s so scary," he says, bewildered.
Why do we even talk about anything other than climate change? The problem is, we have a combination of denial and the problem of which country bears the burden. That dominates everything else.